Steven D. Haines Jr.
Keen work boots stepping on metal scraps

Hands-On Review: KEEN's Mt. Vernon Steel Toe Boots vs. Aluminum Recycling Plant

May 24, 2016
We wanted to know if KEEN Utility's premium Mt. Vernon steel toe work boots were strong enough for the most demanding industrial environments, so we recently asked a furnace pre-stager at Imperial Aluminum recycling plant in Minerva, Ohio to put them to the test.

I pre-stage charges for a rotary tilt furnace to melt aluminum scrap, and this job is torture on footwear. Boots rarely last long in the heat, oil, sharp objects, dust, wet conditions, and metal splashes I am exposed to on a daily basis.

Needless to say, this is a great testing environment for durability.

My first impression of the KEEN Utility Mt. Vernon mid steel toe work boots? These boots are comfortable. Honestly, they were more comfortable than the six-year-old boots I had just taken off. Chalk it up to the PU midsoles if you will, but the bottom line is they are extremely comfortable right out of the box.

Their construction also seems very solid: the soles are very securely fashioned to the uppers of the boots; the stitching and hardware are top notch.

Although I generally gravitate towards stitched-on soles for durability I don’t believe this will be an issue with the Mt. Vernon boots as the soles are attached exceptionally well.

The boots are so well made that I think the uppers would rip apart before the soles delaminate from them.

The Fit Test

Other than the very limited time I had them on at home, I did not break these in before I went to work for a 12-hour shift. I was nervous about this decision because 12 hours is a long time to work on hurting feet.

I was worried for nothing.

The cushy footbed and ample toe box were very forgiving on my feet throughout the night. I initially thought these boots ran a little big, but the fit was spot on after forming to my feet.

These Keen boots were also much lighter than my old pair of boots, which was a pleasant surprise.

The Torture Test

The first night I wore these boots, I decided I would find ways to abuse these boots before the work week ended. I wanted to get a true test on durability and comfort.

I laced them up and clocked in.

Durability-wise, these boots are on par with other top-tier work boots in their class.

I have gone through 15 years of work boots in many different brands and styles. These, by far, are one of the best I have worn.

I purposefully kicked sharp objects and covered them in the dirt to give them a fair go in the week I wore them before writing this so I could give readers an all-around good review. I went as far as digging my feet through whatever scrap was nearby to check for abrasion resistance.

Although Keen does not rate these boots for heat resistance, I also walked on several scorching surfaces and splashed them with molten aluminum. Exposure to these tests left these boots with no perceivable thermal damage. I could feel things under my foot and might be worried about long-term exposure causing puncture damage in the bottoms of these boots.

There is a bit of synthetic material in the tongue and in the flex areas of these boots that people who weld or work around molten materials should be aware of. Once laced tight, the exposure of these areas is minimal, but they are there.

Overall, I imagine I could get at least a full year of good wear from these boots in the environment I work in before needing to purchase a new pair.


Ergonomically speaking, these boots work.

I walked through heavy oil and mud without slipping. The tread is aggressive enough for traction and liquid voiding.

The stability of these Keen boots is also superior to my old boots. Where my old boots would slip I now had stability and sure footing, which is nice when jumping down into a slick, oily bobcat bucket.

They also clean out relatively quickly so you are not carrying around a ton of gunk in your boot tread everywhere you go.


These boots lace quickly and easily. The laces are long but for me, this is a plus because I like to double knot the laces on my work boots.

I had been wearing a pair of equally expensive internal metatarsal top-notch boots and found these are a ton lighter and offer a roomier toe box.

The difference in weight is amazing and helps ease the tiredness I feel after 12 hours on my feet. I almost felt like a ninja, climbing in and out of my skid steer, as opposed to my clunky, older boots.

Rain Check

The only thing that really was missing was to check just how waterproof these boots really are. I really don’t deal with a lot of wet conditions on the job but know a lot of folks do. Luckily, it rained my last night of work for the week and filled the truck dock with rainwater. I can say with absolute certainty that these boots are indeed waterproof.

Initially, I was apprehensive about this product review as I had a bad experience with a pair of Keen boots in the past. The issue was not due to poor quality, but the boots did not fit my feet properly and the safety toe insert rubbed my big toe.

I'm happy I gave this pair of Keen Mt. Vernon boots an honest try.

They are durable, made of quality materials, fit me well, and I will definitely wear this pair until I wear them out. It’s also nice to know that by purchasing these boots you are supporting American manufacturing and American laborers.